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Timing & Performance

Sony cameras have long offered excellent performance where it really matters, and the S90 - budget camera or not - is no exception. Although some of the figures below are hardly class-leading (power up/power down times are particularly slow), most of this is due to the very slow, but very smooth and silent zoom mechanism. Focus speed is excellent - and very reliable - and everything else feels responsive enough in use not to get in the way of your picture taking. Even the burst mode isn't bad for this class of camera.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2304 x 1728 Fine JPEG image (approx. 2,600 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1.0GB Lexar Memory Stick PRO.

Action Details
Time, secs
Power: Off to Record   2.5
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 2.4
Power: Record to Off All activity ceased 3.3
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty, lens retracted ~0.0
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty, lens extended 3.3
Record Review Image displayed ~0.5
Mode: Record to Play   ~1.2
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended ~1.2
Play: Magnify To full magnification (5x) 3.0
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~0.2 *1
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails *2 ~0.5

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 39 to 117 mm (3 x) 1.8
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle *3 ~0.3
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto *3 ~0.4
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view <0.1
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Viewfinder <0.1
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~0.3
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~2.8
Shot to Shot Flash off 1.1
Shot to Shot Flash on (with red eye reduction on) 4.8
Shot to Shot Flash on (with red eye reduction off) 2.3
*1 The S90 uses caching and low-res previews to speed up scrolling. You can scroll through images at high speed, but the first time an image is displayed it takes around 0.9 seconds to load the full res image (4MP/Fine)
*2 4x4 thumbnails also available
*3 Multi-AF mode. You can reduce these figures slightly (about 10%) by switching to center AF.

Lag Timing Definitions

Half-press Lag (0->S1)
Many digital camera users prime the AF and AE systems on their camera by half-pressing the shutter release. This is the amount of time between a half-press of the shutter release and the camera indicating an auto focus & auto exposure lock on the LCD monitor / viewfinder (ready to shoot).
 

(Prime AF/AE)
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE primed)
Full-press Lag (0->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE not primed)

Continuous mode

The tables below show the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. The media used for these tests was a 1.0GB Lexar Memory Stick PRO card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/160 sec during these tests.

Continuous drive mode

The S90 has one burst mode plus a 'multi burst' setting, which produces a single 1280x960 pixel image containing a grid of 16 consecutive exposures in a very short period (selectable from 1/7.5 to 1/30 of a second). The burst mode is nothing special - at best managing around 1.6 frames per second (4MP, Fine JPEG). You can only take a limited number of shots in a single burst - 4 at the 4MP/fine setting, rising to 18 at 1MP/Standard.

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
2304 x 1728 (4MP) JPEG Fine Burst 1.6 fps 4 ~3.4s delay
2304 x 1728 (4MP) JPEG Standard Burst 1.5 fps 6 ~3.4s delay  
2048 x 1536 (3MP) JPEG Fine Burst 1.4 fps 4 ~3.4s delay  
2048 x 1536 (3MP) JPEG Standard Burst 1.4 fps 7 ~3.4s delay  
1280 x 960 (1MP) JPEG Fine Burst 1.6 fps 11 ~3.4s delay  
1280 x 960 (1MP) JPEG Standard Burst 1.6 fps 18 ~3.4s delay  

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 Once the buffer is full the S90 will pause for between 3.0 and 4.0 seconds before another burst of shots can be taken - most of this time is taken up with the process of autofocus and auto exposure.

Interestingly the S90 performs better in burst mode than Sony's published spec would have you believe (they quote 0.7 fps, though I suspect this is a simple typo, as the camera actually manages around 0.7 seconds per frame). The speed - and buffer limitations - are similar to other entry-level 4MP cameras, such as the Canon PowerShot A520.

File Write / Display and Sizes

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when activity indicator went out. This means the timings also include the camera's processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 1.0GB Lexar Memory Stick PRO card.

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
1.0GB Card
2304 x 1728 (4MP) JPEG Fine ~2.6 ~0.2 *3 1,740 KB 506
2304 x 1728 (4MP) JPEG Standard ~2.6 ~0.2 *3 950 KB 920
2048 x 1536 (3MP) JPEG Fine ~2.6 ~0.2 *3 1,360 KB 632
1280 x 960 (1MP) JPEG Fine ~2.6 ~0.2 *3 560 KB 1518

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (detail and noise).
*2 Camera estimation.
*1 The S90 uses caching and low-res previews to speed up scrolling. You can scroll through images at high speed, but the first time an image is displayed it takes around 0.9 seconds to load the full res image (4MP/Fine)

At around 2.6 seconds to write and process a 1.7MB image, the S90 is about average for a camera in this class, though with write speeds of just over 650KB/s - at best - you'll only really need a fast 'PRO' card if you intend to shoot movies or lots of images in rapid succession.

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